Cape Town police have charged a 38-year-old man following complaints to the police of assault by some of the refugees housed in the Cape Town Methodist Church. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - Cape Town police have arrested the 38-year-old leader of a group of refugees housed at the city's Central Methodist Church, they said on Wednesday. 

The Congolese national faces eight charges of assault, of which five are assault with the intention to do grievous bodily harm, the office of the provincial commissioner said. His arrest follows complaints by some of the refugees living in the church, that they have been assaulted.

However, following his arrest, about 50 members of the group of refugees arrived at the Cape Town central police station and demanded his release.

"After being advised to leave, the group duly complied and dispersed. Public Order Police members are keeping an eye on the situation," the commissioner's office said. 

It added that the police station was operational and that no further incidents have taken place. 

The refugee leader is due to appear in the Cape Town magistrate's court on Friday.

About 500 displaced migrants, more than half of them children, have been living at the church since they were evicted from the Waldorf Arcade in St Georges Mall, which houses the Cape Town offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in October.

They are now locked in a high court battle with the city council. 

The group, and another in Pretoria, have been protesting that they suffer rights violations in South Africa and should be relocated to another country.

African News Agency (ANA)